NORFOLK, Va. — Governor Ralph Northam announced the creation of a new task force aimed at easing restrictions on businesses in order to reopen the Virginia economy.
This new COVID-19 Business Task Force is expected to devise a strategy on easing social distancing measures and other restrictions so that businesses to return to their normal routines.
In a Friday press conference, Northam said in phase one of reopening the state, social distancing and mask-wearing would still be recommended, teleworking would continue to be strongly recommended and some businesses could re-open with strict restrictions.
Before that can happen, Northam said the state department of health would have to see:
- A downward trend in the percentage of positive tests over 14 days
- A downward trend in hospitalizations over 14 days
- Increased testing and tracing
- Enough hospital beds and intensive care capacity for a possible surge, and
- An increased and sustainable supply of PPE.
So far, positive tests are still increasing every day, even though the rate at which cases double has slowed down. Hospitalizations have flattened out, but have not started decreasing yet.
The task force will be charged with fleshing out details for phase one of reopening and will work together to plan phases two and three… and any further needed steps.
More than a dozen individuals were appointed to the task force by state officials, including business leaders in Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Hampton, Williamsburg, Gloucester, and Chincoteague.
The co-owner of Meyer Fitness in Norfolk got on the task force after making an impression. Bill Meyer runs the appointment-based physical training center.
“We only have up to six people in the gym at one time,” Meyer said. “Three being staff, three being clients.”
He emailed the Governor’s Office on why his business should stay open when nonessential businesses were closed a month ago.
Emails were sent back and forth until a special one came this past Monday.
“At the very last paragraph it says, ‘and the governor has invited you to be on a task force,’” Meyer said.
He is one of 23 Virginia business leaders helping reopen the state.
“I represent the small business fitness, health kind of sector,” Meyer said.
The group is made up of representatives from different Virginia industries, scales, geographies, and backgrounds across the Commonwealth, including restaurants, breweries, wineries, small and large retailers, fitness centers, hair salons, barbershops, spas and estheticians, museums, hospitality groups, campgrounds, and entertainment venues.
Meyer said the task force had their first phone call this past Wednesday. He said another call is scheduled on Monday, April 27 with Governor Northam.
State leaders will continue to consult numerous businesses, labor, public health, trade, and professional organizations for their assessments on reopening the state.
“We cannot and will not lift restrictions the way you turn on a light switch,” Northam said. “One step forward and two steps back is no way to move ahead.”
Northam extended the closure of all non-essential businesses to May 8. The stay-at-home order is still expected to be lifted on June 10.